U.K. Government Sued by ClientEarth Over Air Quality Plans

  • Lawsuit comes less than a year after Supreme Court order
  • U.K. to miss EU air pollution guidelines by 15 years

A London-based environmental law organization filed a suit to force the U.K. government to make changes to improve the country’s air quality, less than a year after winning a Supreme Court order that forced ministers to revise existing plans.

ClientEarth said Friday in a statement that it filed a lawsuit with the High Court, and will serve U.K. government lawyers with the claim. Scottish and Welsh ministers, London Mayor Boris Johnson and the Department for Transport will be added to the case “as interested parties,” according to the statement. The U.K. is “committed” to improving air quality, the environment department said in a statement.

The government in December released new plans that said London would comply with European Union regulations on air pollution by 2025, an improvement on previous projections that it wouldn’t do so until at least 2030. That’s still 15 years later than the mandated by the EU guidelines. ClientEarth says that air pollution causes “tens of thousands” early deaths each year.

“The government has repeatedly failed to tackle this problem, despite a ruling by the Supreme Court,” said Alan Andrews, a lawyer with ClientEarth. “As the government can’t be trusted to deal with toxic air pollution, we are asking the court to intervene and make sure it is taking action.”

The U.K.’s situation was exposed in the second week of January, when one London street breached EU rules on annual pollution levels just 8 days into the year. A report last month by the Royal College of Physicians found that about 40,000 people die a year in the U.K. because of exposure to outdoor air pollution.

“Our plans clearly set out how we will improve the U.K.’s air quality through a new program of ‘Clean Air Zones,’ which alongside national action and continued investment in clean technologies will create cleaner, healthier air for all,” the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in an e-mailed statement.

Cities across the country, including Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow are also in breach of the EU rules.

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